Wax On, Wax Off

May 19, 2004
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It is enlightening to watch discussions on various industry Bulletin Boards regarding the damage that can be caused by candles burning regularly in a home.

One problem that can arise is light, sooty-type filtration soil that builds up in areas of high or concentrated airflow. But the gradual buildup of this soil is not too headline grabbing when compared with the catastrophe of melted wax from a candle that is accidentally spilled on a carpet. Now we have a challenge!

Wax removal is probably most easily accomplished by using heat. Melt the wax with an iron and move it into or onto another surface. This is referred to as the heat transfer method.

The first step in wax removal is breaking up the blob as much as possible, and removing as much of the material with a vacuum as possible before trying a melting process. One of the most common methods of removing wax is to use a clothes iron and absorbent paper, such as grocery bags (if they still have those in your area). Set the iron temperature at a level compatible with the face fiber of the carpet, and place the absorbent paper, or a terry towel, over the wax. Apply the iron directly over the wax, causing it to melt and transfer into the paper or towel. Turn the paper or towel as needed to expose fresh, clean areas to the wax spot. Continue the process until as much wax residue as possible has been removed. Beware of yarn distortion if you get the carpet too hot, especially with olefin.

Another method of using heat to remove wax involves using a hot-water extraction machine that actually makes hot water, usually a truckmount. I find I get the best results with this process using a furniture-cleaning hand tool (this delivers the maximum heat to the area you are working). Use a back and forth motion over the wax spot until it is gone.

Pretty simple, yes? It may be somewhat time consuming, since you are actually melting a thin layer of the wax, extracting it, and repeating the process. Watch for yarn distortion from the heat. Let it cool off every couple minutes.

A method that was suggested to me by a client incorporates a hair dryer to create the heat that melts the wax. The wax is melted by the heat of the hair dryer, and is removed with paper towels, fabric towels or a wet-dry type vacuum. This is a process that can reasonably be performed by the client.

But there is a caution here. This method uses dry heat directly on the fibers of the carpet. Fibers will be adversely affected by dry heat at a much lower temperature than with wet heat. If this method is used, very close attention must be paid to the possible distortion of yarns and fibers. It is best to let the fiber cool off for a minute or so between heating-and-removing cycles. If you recommend this procedure to a client, make sure they understand that you are not responsible for the results, or for any damage to carpet.

Then, after all that work and time, the wax is out. But if there was color in the candle, there is probably still a colored stain in the carpet. Think about it: Easter egg red, blue, and more other colors than you and I could imagine. This remaining stain is most assuredly permanent. But, in many cases, removing the excess wax will lighten the color enough that the client can disguise the remaining stain enough to live with it.

So what is the best way for a cleaner to handle this wax-removal service call when it comes? Carefully and with your eyes wide open! Qualify the job details, such as price and any guarantee, with the client before any work begins. Get a signed authorization from the client. Carefully qualify your guarantee on this authorization. Allow sufficient time to get the job done right (you don't want to have to rush this one). How about taking some before-and-after pictures? This will document how much of an improvement you have made, and they'll look good in your "brag book." You do have a brag book, don't you?

I'm sure this information on wax removal will benefit both you and your clients as you continue in your cleaning endeavors. Remember, qualify the job with the client and stop before you damage the face fibers. Until next month, see ya!

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